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Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol

Friday, 08 November 2002 12:00 AM

Should we worry about changes in climate? Does "global warming" really pose a threat to our human health and well-being?

It turns out that the "Kyoto Protocol," ginned up by the bureaucrats and advocacy researchers of "The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" would be much more harmful to our health than any possible benefit. In other words, the greatest possible climate change from the treaty would be so small that it would be hard to even detect.

Yet the costs would be immense.

The ostensible goal of the Kyoto Protocol is the reduction of the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases alleged to be warming the planet – with the United States and Europe doing the greatest reducing. So far, the United States has served notice that it is not participating in the treaty. The United States Senate, without a single dissenting vote, passed a "Sense of the Senate" resolution five years ago stating it would reject the treaty.

As of Nov. 1, 96 countries have ratified the treaty. Australia has withdrawn its ratification of the treaty. Even if the Kyoto Protocol were completely implemented internationally, the global climate effect would be minimal. As Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish environmentalist, wrote in the New York Times last August: "All current models show that the Kyoto Protocol will have surprisingly little impact on the climate: temperature levels projected for 2100 will be postponed for all of six years."

The economic impact of Kyoto is easier to predict. Worldwide catastrophe: depression and "de-industrialization" in the West, an end to development in the rest of the world, with all the concomitant human sickness, death and general misery.

But does human activity produce global warming? Clearly, the physical processes of atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, trapping heat are real. Without this process, the world would be a much colder place, dominated by glaciers. But will human processes inevitably yield major changes that hurt human and other life?

The simple answer is, we don't know. Far too many variables are involved, including the Earth's and the Sun's own natural rhythms, to predict with any confidence (other than that born of apocalyptic self-righteousness) what the net human impact might be. What we do know is the Earth's climate does change over time and is well-documented in fossil and geological records. Always has. Always will.

Climate (as opposed to weather) refers to average weather conditions over several decades or a longer period of time. And the consequences of such change vary. If the climate changes in one area, that area may cease to be good for some activities, but benefit others. Grapes grew in Greenland not so long ago; in eons past, Antarctica was balmy. Although thermometer records go back only four centuries, estimates from other records and geological evidence suggest that temperatures may have gone up and down by as much as 13 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 1,500 years.

We are, in fact, living in a relatively brief and warm "inter-glacial" era that started about 10,000 years ago. Thus, the Earth's average climate for the last several million years is a lot colder than the average of the current 10-millennia-old warm period, with its own ups and downs.

The current warm period points, by its very "inter-glacial" name, toward a coming Ice Age. So who knows? Maybe a few extra degrees might be good for us.

But the Kyoto Crusaders claim righteous certitude, based upon several dubious methodologies. One is projection based on computer simulation, even though the available models are crude, at best. Another is so-called "meta-analysis," in which the results of many studies and simulations, no matter how flawed, are averaged and simmered together until the desired conclusion froths forth. And then there's "analysis by anecdote" – the ozone hole has expanded, or a glacier has shrunk, or a frog's left testicle is twisted.

Curiously, however, this is one time when economics may prove more prescient than the "harder" physical sciences. The "Protocol" would cost trillions to implement, leaving everyone with less money for all else, including health. As Lomberg notes: "It will be far more expensive to cut carbon dioxide emissions radically than to pay the costs of adapting to the increased temperatures" of a few degrees ... assuming it happens at all.

"Global warming" does not pose harm to human health and well-being. The planetary political solution to this deceptive threat – the Kyoto Treaty – does! President Bush should follow the Senate's lead and formally withdraw from participation in the Kyoto Protocol.

So stop worrying and learn to love the short-lived warmth!

* * * * * *

Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple-award-winning writer who comments on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Contact Drs. Glueck and Cihak by e-mail.

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Should we worry about changes in climate? Does "global warming" really pose a threat to our human health and well-being? It turns out that the "Kyoto Protocol," ginned up by the bureaucrats and advocacy researchers of "The United Nations Framework Convention on...
Friday, 08 November 2002 12:00 AM
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